French truckers, farmers block roads to protest refugee camp

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Paris, Sep 5 (IANS) Truck drivers and farmers calling for the immediate dismantling of the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in northern French city of Calais are set to launch a joint protest on Monday.

Both groups see the encampment, home to some 6,900 migrants, as detrimental to the local economy, with nightly cases of migrant incursions into the port where many individuals attempt to secretly board United Kingdom-bound trucks, Efe news reported.

“We are drivers, not immigrant traffickers. Together we will liberate Calais,” read a sign on a protester’s vehicle.

The so-called ‘Operation Snail’ is to see drivers and farmers effectively block the main roads into Calais with a convoy of slow-moving cargo trucks and tractors which were to congregate in the centre of the port city.

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Port workers and local shop owners were also expected to join the demonstration in the city.

In an interview with regional newspaper “Nord Littoral”, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazenueve vowed to complete the government project to dismantle the camp, but said it must be carried out “step by step”.

However, representatives for agriculture and road transport sectors were unsatisfied with the projected time-frame for the undoing of the camp.

Farmers have accused migrants of uprooting trees from private farmland, which they use to disrupt traffic flow near the port, allowing more time to illegally board trucks.

“The situation here is reaching boiling point. If the authorities do not do anything, then this runs the risk of ending in drama,” farmer Xavier Foissey told news outlet France Info.

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The southern part of the refugee camp was dismantled in March.

National police union, Alliance, said that the situation at the Jungle was out of control, and added that the number of migrants residing there was around 10,000.

The areas in the vicinity of the camp have witnessed sporadic incidents of violence within the migrant community and occasionally against police officers, often during eviction processes.

The encampment rose to public prominence during the spike in migration figures in Europe, spurred on by widespread violent conflict in the Middle East.

Northern France is a popular staging area for those attempting to enter the UK.

The interior minister has said that accommodation in special asylum centres will be made available for the individuals due to be evicted from the camp.

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